Up until now, all the data you backed up with Apple was unencrypted. Meaning, if the government where you reside asked to see your stuff backed up in the cloud (icloud), they could simply send a request to Apple (or Google or Microsoft or any other company) and force them to send it to them.

That all changes now for Apple users as it introduce the feature called Advanced Data Protection, including device backups, photos, messages, and more. With the new change, most of your data stored in iCloud will be fully end-to-end encrypted. It is available now worldwide with the just released iOS update 16.3 for iPhone and iPad (it was available since december in the USA only).

By encrypting data, only a trusted user device can access that information. Up until now, your photos, messages, and device backups, were not end-to-end encrypted meaning if Apple wanted to, it could access your information.

With Advanced Data Protection enabled for a specific iCloud account, no one, not Apple, law enforcement, or governments can ever gain access to that information.

What data can now be fully end-to-end encrypted?

With Advanced Data Protection, users have the following types of data end-to-end encrypted in iCloud.

  • Device Backup
  • Messages Backup
  • iCloud Drive
  • Photos
  • Reminders
  • Safari Bookmarks
  • Siri Shortcuts
  • Voice Memos
  • Wallet Passes

It’s worth noting that iCloud Mail, Contacts, and Calendar will not be end-to-end encrypted as Apple claims they require the ability to connect to external sources.

Is it enabled by default, and if not, how do I enable it?

Advanced Data Protection is not be enabled by default for users. Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi explained that Advanced Data Protection requires extra effort from the user to enable a recovery method. The extra process and responsibility that lies on the shoulders of users in case they forget their password or lose access to their account make it impractical to force every user to go through that process, Federighi explained.

Nonetheless, even if not enabled by default, it’s still easy to enable. Go to Settings, iCloud, and Advanced Data Protection, enable it and follow the on-screen prompts.

Is it free?

Yes, it’s free. Advanced Data Protection is an additional layer of protection offered to anyone with an iCloud account, at no extra charge. You still gotta pay for iCloud storage though.

It is without saying that neither Google nor Microssoft is offering the same level of protection.